My friends who live in other lands are aghast. What is going on in Canada? they ask. Nothing ever happens here, then suddenly all hell breaks loose. The most boring country on the planet is actually on the verge of being … interesting.
The truth is, we’re all rattled. We never knew we lived among such wickedness and vice. It’s like discovering that your maiden aunt has been working in a whorehouse. How bad is it, really? Whither the nicest, cleanest country in the world? Perhaps this handy little scandal guide will help.
The Toronto mayor scandal. After a series of embarrassing incidents, Toronto’s sweaty and dishevelled mayor, Rob Ford, was allegedly captured on a cellphone video allegedly smoking crack. There is every reason to believe this alleged video exists – or did exist before someone dumped it in the lake or turned it over to police. All his senior staff quit, and the mayor’s office is now being run by 12-year-olds. Police have executed a major drug bust involving many of the characters connected with the video. The chief knows a bunch of stuff but isn’t telling. The mayor is carrying on as if nothing’s happened. City hall, dysfunctional at the best of times, has ground to a halt. A lot of people think the mayor is a joke, but a lot of other people think the media should stop picking on him. Expect more shoes to drop. Till then, the joke is on Toronto. Rating: 3 stars
The Montreal mayor scandal etc. After promising to clean up Montreal’s corruption-riddled city hall, interim mayor Michael Applebaum has been arrested on charges of … corruption. Montrealers are in shock, although it’s not entirely clear why. The rot in Quebec is broad and deep. The formre mayor of Laval has also been charged with corruption, along with allegations against the interim mayor who succeeded him and almost every other city councillor. Quebec’s giant engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin, and the province’s biggest new hospital are also deeply mired in the muck. The real mystery is why nobody cared enough to blow the whistle long ago. But there is a silver lining; Torontonians now know that some people have it worse than they do. Rating: 4 stars
The Senate spending scandal. Negligible in dollars but comparable in impact to the meteor that may have caused the Great Extinction. The spectacle of unelected politicians misusing expense accounts and feeding at the public trough has unleashed widespread public disgust. Voters who were previously happy to ignore the Senate now want to tar and feather it. Beleaguered senators are so terrified that they hired a motivational speaker to give them advice on Encountering the Media and Overcoming Panic and Fear. Then they thought again, and cancelled. Rating: 1/2 star for actual abuse, 3 stars for fallout
The Quebec soccer turban scandal. The Quebec Soccer Federation tried to ban little kids who wear turbans, citing “safety” reasons. Everyone outside Quebec was mystified. The motivation has to do with a peculiar brand of secular fundamentalist identity politics that nobody outside Quebec can comprehend. It’s the same reason why some Quebec politicians want police to tow the cars of religious Jews who leave them on the street during High Holidays. Rating: 1 star
The Ontario gas-plant scandal. During the last election, Ontario’s Liberals cancelled a couple of major gas-plant projects in a naked effort to buy votes. They neglected to say that this would cost taxpayers nearly $600-million. Efforts to call anyone to account have proved futile. Former premier Dalton McGuinty has conveniently retired, and his former chief of staff says that the deletion of countless e-mails relating to the matter was entirely routine. “I could go on and on and on, but time prohibits me from reading all 99 reasons why the rules require the destruction and deletion of records,” he said. Rating: 21/2 stars
The Justin Trudeau “paid speeches” scandal. Stinging from the Senate scandal, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are trying to whip up outrage over Mr. Trudeau’s outside speaking fees, which amount to $277,000 since he was elected as an MP in 2008. The Prime Minister even took time off from his busy G8 schedule to remark, “As a public servant, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to then take money from charity.” Wounded by the inference that he snatches bread from widows and orphans, Mr. Trudeau has offered to refund his fees on request. Thankfully, the most rancorous parliamentary session of recent times has now adjourned for the summer. Taxpayers can be forgiven if they, too, want a refund. Rating: 1/4 star
The original print column and earlier online versions said the mayor of Laval has been charged with corruption, along with the interim mayor who succeeded him and almost every other city councillor. In fact, only Gilles Vaillancourt, the former mayor, was charged after he resigned. There have been allegations of a breach of Quebec electoral law, but no charges against the other politicians.